18 need-to-know notes - and wagers - for the 2018 PGA Championship

Aug 6, 2018 |

The final major championship of the season is upon us – which means it's the final opportunity at high-profile glory for all but three players who have tasted major victory already this season.

All three 2018 major champions are among the top 15 in oddsmakers' eyes for the PGA Championship, with U.S. Open winner Brooks Koepka leading the triumvirate at +2,000. Open Championship winner Francesco Molinari is next in line at +3,000, followed by Masters champion Patrick Reed at +4,000.

Here are 18 other betting facts ahead of this weekend's 72-hole free-for-all at Bellerive Country Club outside St. Louis:

1. Let's start with the guy picked by bookmakers to win the fourth and final major of the calendar year. Dustin Johnson comes in with the lowest odds of any player in the field (+900), and with good reason: he already has three tournament victories this season and leads the World Golf Ranking coming into the weekend. And while he has just one major victory on his otherwise impressive resume, he has produced consistently solid results at the PGA Championship, posting four top-10 results and finishing 13th last year.

2. While a Johnson victory is the likeliest outcome in oddsmakers' minds, the guy with the second-best odds might actually be a better bet based on past performance. Rory McIlroy is installed at +1,200, and is one of only a handful of repeat PGA Championship winners in the field, having claimed the title in 2012 and again in 2014. But that second victory represents McIlroy's last major title victory, though he has produced five top-five finishes in major tournaments in the four years since.

3. Rounding out the top three is defending PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas, who is listed at +1,400 to defend his crown. But he's up against it here, with a brutally strong field ready to challenge for the championship. There have been only two instances of a repeat PGA Championship winner this decade – and Tiger Woods was responsible for both, winning back-to-back in 1999-2000 and again in 2006-07. Prior to that, there hadn't been a repeat winner at the year's final major since Denny Shute in 1936-37.

4. If you're thinking about a less heralded play, consider the group of elite players that has yet to win a major championship. The PGA Championship has produced six first-time major winners in the previous nine iterations, including first-timers in each of the past three tournaments (Thomas, 2017; Jimmy Walker, 2016; Jason Day, 2015). Could this be Rickie Fowler's tournament? Fowler has yet to taste major victory in his PGA Tour career but has the best odds of any potential first-time winner at +2,200.

5. There will be plenty of betting tickets with Tiger's name on them – and why not? Woods has partially recaptured the form that made him the greatest player in history through the 2000s and early 2010s, and is installed at +2,500 to win his fifth PGA Championship, which would equal Walter Hagen and Jack Nicklaus for the most in history. But he hasn't been a solid play since finishing second way back in 2009, with three missed cuts and a high finish of 11th in six PGA Championship events since.

6. McIlroy is far and away the top European option to win the PGA Championship at +350 – but there is a quintet of intriguing names right behind him. Justin Rose is next in line at +700; he has a pair of top-four finishes at this tournament but missed the cut last year at Quail Hollow. The always popular Jon Rahm sits third at +850; he finished fourth at the Masters but missed the cut at the U.S. Open and the Open Championship. Tommy Fleetwood (+900) and Molinari (+900) round out the top five.

7. As for the rest of the world, Day is the only legitimate contender for the title at +2,000 to win outright and is an overwhelming +333 fave to lead all players outside the U.S. and Europe. Day has five top-10 finishes in eight PGA Championship events, including a victory in 2015 and a second-place showing in 2016. Louis Oosthuizen is a distant second to finish as the low rest-of-the-world player at +800, with Hideki Matsuyama third at +900; Matsyuama comes in with back-to-back top-five PGA Championship finishes.

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8. There are few things more exciting at major tournament time than a playoff – but bettors shouldn't hold their breath. There haven't been extra holes played at the PGA Championship since 2011, when Keegan Bradley fended off Jason Dufner at Atlanta Athletic Club; that was the second of two straight PGA Championship playoffs. But it's worth noting that there was a playoff the last time Bellerive hosted the tournament, back in 1992. Bettors are getting +275 for a playoff in 2018, and -400 for no playoff.

9. As is tradition, each of the first three 2018 major champions has been paired together for the opening two rounds of the PGA Championship – and the odds for the opening round closely mirror those of the full tournament. Koepka is the favorite to shoot the low first round of the threesome at +135, with Molinari installed at +180. Reed has the longest odds at +225. Koepka has the lowest first-round scoring average of the three at 70.73, but Reed is right on his heels at 70.74.

10. There are a few other notable threesomes in the field – none more star-studded than the triumvirate of Thomas, McIlroy and Woods. Rory is the slight favorite to finish with the low first round at +137, with Thomas close behind at +150. Thomas represents a sneaky value play here, ranked 16th on the PGA Tour in first-round scoring average at 69.56. That's considerably lower than McIlroy's 70.31, which ranks tied for 58th. And then there's Woods (+260), who averages 71.15 over the opening 18 holes.

11. Match betting should be popular this weekend – and one of the more intriguing matchups pits Jordan Spieth against Tommy Fleetwood, with both players listed at -110. Spieth has had an up-and-down season heading into the final major, finishing third at the Masters and ninth at the Open Championship but missing the cut at the U.S. Open. Fleetwood has been the more consistent of the two, finishing second at the U.S. Open and finishing inside the top-20 in the other two majors.

12. The PGA Championship is usually a tightly contested affair, which matters for bettors who are looking at the margin of victory prop. Since 1995, the winner has prevailed by two or fewer shots 18 times, compared to five victories by three or more shots. The tournament has been decided by two or fewer shots in six of the previous eight years, with McIlroy's eight-shot obliteration in 2012 the only real outlier in that span. Bettors are getting +250 for a one-shot win, and +350 for a two-shot triumph.

13. The list of players with the most top-10 finishes this year features plenty of recognizable names – but there's a potential sleeper option right near the top. Brian Harman has finished in the top 10 a whopping eight times in 2018, behind only Dustin Johnson (10). Choosing him to win the PGA Championship outright at +20,000 might not be the best play, but bettors should consider nabbing him at a downright generous +1,600 to increase his top-10 finish total by one this weekend.

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14. Everyone knows about Woods and McIlroy heading to Missouri with multiple PGA Championship wins on their resumes, but there's another multi-time winner in the field – and he might generate some interest among tournament long shots. Vijay Singh comes in as the 1998 and 2004 champion, but hasn't posted a top-10 result at the PGA Championship since 2005. Singh comes in at a whopping +50,000 to win what would be his first major championship in 14 years.

15. Golf fans who love seeing players face incredibly long putts could be in for a treat this weekend, with Bellerive boasting some of the largest putting surfaces on the tour. And this is where Kevin Kisner will look to make an impact. Kisner ranks second on the PGA Tour – and tops among players in the field – in 3-putt avoidance on greens where he begins 25 or more feet away from the hole (3.23 percent). Kisner, who finished second at the Open Championship, is a +11,000 longshot to secure his first major title.

16. Of course, it'll work out a lot better for players if they just land the ball closer to the hole on their approach. And in that regard, no one has been better than Bradley. The 2011 PGA Championship winner is averaging 1.017 Strokes Gained: Approach the Green through his first 78 rounds this season, comfortably ahead of runners-up Henrik Stenson (.970) and Thomas (.942). Bradley has the pedigree to compete, and should draw plenty of attention as a +11,000 option to win outright.

17. We would be remiss if we didn't mention Phil Mickelson, who is garnering more attention these days for his reported head-to-head showdown with Woods scheduled for November. Mickelson hasn't contended at a major since finishing second in 2016, and hasn't been much of a factor at the PGA Championship since placing second in 2014. But he comes in ranked third on the PGA Tour in final-round scoring average in 2018 (68.81), and is worth a flier at +7,500 to win his 50th professional tourney.

18. We finish with the straight forecast, which carries some of the most tantalizing odds of any prop bet. The best odds see Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy finishing first and second, with either combination paying out at +10,000. Other notable 1-2 forecasts include Johnson defeating Woods (+20,000), McIlroy beating Woods (+30,000), Koepka upending Johnson (+17,500), Spieth knocking off Thomas (+30,000) and Woods prevailing ahead of Koepka (+50,000).

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